Hubert Burda Media

To The Max

Whether opening stores in Europe or picking out this season's hottest trends, NICOLA MARAMOTTI of Max Mara fame tells all.

To The Max

When Nicola Gerber Maramotti married Ignazio Maramotti, scion of the Max Mara fashion empire, in 1993, the German-born beauty found herself inducted into one of Europe's wealthiest Italian fashion families. Given how she was more inclined towards gems than threads at the time — she was then manager of Wempe Exquisite Timepieces & Jewellery in New York — barely did she even anticipate that one day she would be a driving force at Max Mara.
“I did not know anything about fashion. All I had were a few pairs of Max Mara trousers, but that was all,” she readily admits. To remedy that, her husband gave her the classic 101801 camel coat — the brand's iconic 1981 double-breasted overcoat in camel-coloured wool and cashmere — and she was bewitched.
Having witnessed her eagerness to learn, her father-in-law and founder of the company Achille Maramotti asked her to join the business around the time she moved into the family's thousand-year-old castle in the firm's home base of Reggio Emilia, Italy. She jumped at the chance and the ambitious young woman went on to prove her worth by opening her first Max Mara store on New York's Fifth Avenue at just 25-years-old.
“When Achille asked me [to join], I had no doubt that I wanted to enter the fashion business. It is probably the most challenging [industry] I could have chosen,” says Maramotti, who also speaks fluent Italian, having moved to Florence, Italy in 1991.
Now more than two decades later, she is the highly regarded director of retail development for the company's operations in Europe. The mother of four is also a well-known public face of the brand, best recognised for her role as ambassador for the Women in Film (WIF) gala in Los Angeles, where she presented actress Rose Byrnes with the Max Mara Face of the Future award in June. WIF is a non-profit group that promotes equal opportunities for women in creative and media industries.
Having always supported creativity and the arts, the brand itself also received The American Art Award this year for making a sustained commitment to the artistic and cultural heritage of the arts in America. It also believes strongly in helping career-minded women achieve their highest potential — something which Maramotti credits Max Mara for endowing her.
“I am happy that I was given the opportunity to be involved and to contribute to the success of the company,” she says, before revealing that the group generates more than a billion dollars a year in revenue. “Creativity is the key word and Max Mara helped me get that energy out,” she adds on.
She did that by working with her brother-in-law Luigi to develop Max&Co., the label's younger line when she first started out. From creating the product to ensuring it arrives in the stores, she was involved in the entire process. These days, she directs her energy to creating Max Mara store concepts in Europe and finding the right locations to open their portfolio of brands which apart from Max Mara and Max&Co., includes Sportmax, Marina Rinaldi, ‘S Max Mara, perfume, bridal wear and eyewear. The talented Maramotti is also responsible for the buying and visual merchandising of the brands' boutiques in the same region.
Ask her what she enjoys most about her job and she replies “everything”, but in particular, overseeing the company's Retail Academy for fresh university graduates keen to start their career in fashion retail. The two-year programme in Europe trains would-be retail managers for Max Mara worldwide.
It goes without saying that she enjoys fashion as well, gamely sharing her thoughts on Fall/Winter's hottest trends: Elegant yet glamorous outfits which suit both day and night wear, presented in a combination of different fabrics Maramotti describes as “chic solutions to an unpredictable winter”. In the case of Max Mara, the waistcoat is the highlight of the season's collection, says Maramotti.
“Under the jacket, it gives a new twist but [can] transform into a sleeveless quilted tweed gilet to open up a new way of layering. The collection is sexy: There are no trousers, only calf-length pencil skirts worn with sheer seamed stockings.”
As for the popular Sportmax collection, the look is polished sophistication. Expect printed leopard and python skins, patchworked in contrasting tones and well-proportioned feminine silhouettes.
She favours the hand-tailored blazer-and-trouser combination, testament to her ever elegant and sharp aesthetic that has landed her in various style-watch pages of publications across the world. “Blazers have become fashionable. It is like a Rolex — you keep it your whole life,” she opines. She is often seen in this well-cut ensemble paired with a feminine blouse.
Quizzed on her fashion inspiration, she cites Coco Chanel, explaining that the designer revolutionised fashion by dressing women differently, be it in a jacket or an elegant suit for stylish, corporate credence. So it comes as no surprise that Maramotti feels an affinity with her.